Please let me know what you think of this.
Who knew that a political practice invented 207 years ago in Massachusetts would have so much effect on current politics in Florida? That’s right kids, it’s time to talk about gerrymandering again, that practice first used by Gov. Elbridge Gerry in 1812 as a way to have better control over sparring political parties in his state and effectively control his bid for reelection. Florida is now one of the worst offenders in this practice, especially through the southeast part of the state. And an upcoming election is a prime example of how gerrymandering has been used to control Florida’s elections and partisan representation in the state Legislature.
On Tuesday, it was announced that Pete Burkert, a Democrat from Ft. Myers, is running for the Florida Senate seat of District 27. Currently occupied by Democrat Dave Aronberg, who announced his resignation to pursue the title of Florida Attorney General, District 27 spans five counties — Palm Beach, Hendry, Glades, Charlotte and Lee counties — and includes parts of Wellington and Loxahatchee. The people of Lee County have been lobbying for years to have representation from their county; however, the gerrymandering process has sliced and diced the county into three districts, none of which have a State Senator from Lee County.
The newest move of the Democratic Party to select a representative from Ft. Myers to run for the currently-Democratic seat in District 27 seems like an attempt to placate a group of people who are tired of being disenfranchised. However, why should the people of the western communities in Palm Beach County have to sacrifice representation so that people on the opposite side of the state will feel that they now have full representation for themselves? Here lies the primary flaw of gerrymandering, perfectly summed up by now-President Barack Obama in a quote from 2006: “Our representatives are selecting their voters, as opposed to the voters selecting the representatives.”
Essentially, most politicians don’t want districts that are non-partisan and contiguous. This makes their job more difficult. They have to pay more attention to census statistics, and send out surveys asking what the voters want in a representative. Why go through all of that when they can just appeal to the state legislature when the time comes for redistricting, and beg for a district shaped like a caterpillar that encompasses primarily lower-income Caucasians who vote along the Republican Party line? In a 2007 opinion piece written in support of redistricting following the 2004 elections, Aronberg stated, “The political process benefits when candidates must reach out to voters from other political parties. But when districts are drawn so that only a Republican or only a Democrat can be elected, the other part of the electorate can be ignored. The result is more hard-line conservatives and liberals and fewer moderates.”
There is a way to fix the nest of snakes that tries to pass itself off as a district map: following the census in 2010, the process of redistricting will again take place. A non-partisan group that claims no affiliation to the state Legislature must be allowed to take charge and work to draw the district lines along existing geographical landmarks that are more reasonable than those already in place. If this is done, the state will be one step closer to a fair vote, instead of the calculated manipulation of voters that has taken place for the past three decades under the rule of both Republicans and Democrats.
We would like to encourage everyone to contact your voting precinct to obtain a constitutional amendment petition form (request the form for the non-partisan redistricting petition). You must be registered to vote to fill out the form, and you may not fill it out more than once. For more information on what is being done to ensure a non-partisan redistricting, visit http://www.fairdistrictsflorida.org.